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SOURCE: THE PRINT

A retired Army officer’s comments on Pakistan in a controversial debate on Republic Bharat are in focus after the British broadcast and communications regulator imposed a £20,000 fine on Worldview Media Network Ltd for broadcasting “hate speech” against Pakistanis on the channel.

Major General K.K. Sinha (retd), a decorated infantry officer, had made the comments in an episode of ‘Poochta Hai Bharat’, anchored by Republic TV’s Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. The programme was on India’s attempt to send the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft to the Moon on 22 July 2019. It was aired in the UK on 6 September 2019.

The Office of Communications or Ofcom in the UK imposed the fine for the contentious debate on Worldview Media, a UK-based firm incorporated last year which holds the broadcast licence for Republic Bharat. The channel airs news and current affairs in Hindi.

In a detailed order on 22 December, Ofcom specifically referred to the retired Army officer’s comments as an “expression of hatred and desire to kill by a figure of authority”.

In the show, Sinha was quoted by Ofcom as referring to Pakistanis as “beggars”.

“Oh you useless people. Beggars. Oh beggars, oh beggars. We will douse you with 1.25kg, .75kg-, with two inches. PoK, PoK, we are coming to the PoK. We are coming to Gilgit, Baltistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa… We are going to come, be ready (sic),” Ofcom quoted him as saying.

“People in your country are shivering with fear that the Indian army may come. We will barge inside your home in Baluchistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Karachi, in your area, in Multan, in Rawalpindi and kill you. From Lahore, from Karachi to Gilgit-Balistan when we will have control (sic),” Sinha was quoted as saying.

In its defence, the licensee had suggested that these statements were “figures of speech not intended to be taken literally, which Asian viewers would have understood clearly”.

However, Ofcom said it considered these statements, made by a retired Major General from the Indian Army, clearly threatening that the Indian military would attack Pakistani civilians in their homes.

“In our view the broadcast of these statements also promoted hatred and intolerance towards Pakistani people,” Ofcom noted.

Major Gaurav Arya (retd), BJP leader Prem Shukla, and Omar Inam and Omar Altaf from Pakistan were the other participants in the debate. A third Pakistani guest remained unidentified by Ofcom.

‘Context lost in translation from Hindi to English’

Major General K.K. Sinha (retd) is a frequent panelist on news channel debates on defence and strategic issues.

Speaking to ThePrint after the Ofcom order, Sinha said the British regulator has completely misquoted him and what he said was clearly lost in the translation from Hindi to English. However, as far as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is concerned, he said, there was nothing wrong in what he said, refuting that it was a hate speech.

“There are so many debates we are part of and whatever is said there has a context to it,” he said. “That PoK is a part of India is also a resolution adopted by the Parliament of India. India’s standing is very clear, which is that Pakistan is occupying PoK illegally.”

Who is Maj Gen (retd) K.K. Sinha?

Sinha had commanded a battalion during the Kargil conflict of 1999, which was responsible for securing areas around the Line of Control and carried out a number of operations.

He was commissioned in the infantry (Sikh regiment) in 1979 and held some critical appointments in the Army, including the command of the Manipur-based Red Shield Division. He is an awardee of the Sena Medal and the Vishist Sena Medal. He also earned the battle performance report during Operation Vijay.

After his tenure as the Major General (General Staff) of Eastern Command, he moved the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) over not being empanelled as a Lieutenant General.

In April 2015, the AFT ruled in favour of Sinha. The tribunal quashed the adverse comments made in Sinha’s ACR by then Army chief, General Dalbir Singh (retd), and his predecessor General Bikram Singh (retd), and directed the Army to convene a special board to reconsider the officer’s case for promotion to the rank of Lt Gen.

The AFT’s order was challenged by the Army in the Supreme Court, which turned down the appeal.

In 2018, a BJP team met him and presented a booklet on achievements of the Narendra Modi government’s achievements in its first four years, as part of the party’s ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ programme.

Sinha is also active on Twitter, making comments on national issues.

In November, he had expressed support for Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami when he was arrested by the Palghar police, stating that he was “shocked”. Sinha called the action a direct threat to freedom of expression and press, “which is highly detrimental for the nation”.